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The Monster Variations [Kindle Edition]

Daniel Kraus
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $8.99
Kindle Price: $7.69
You Save: $1.30 (14%)
Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

This fast-paced read will keep readers on the edge of their seats!

Someone is killing boys in a small town. The murder weapon is a truck, and the only protection is a curfew enacted to keep kids off the streets. But it’s summer—and that alone is worth the risk of staying out late for James, Willie, and Reggie.

Willie, who lost his arm in the first hit-and-run attack, finds it hard to keep up with his two best friends as they leave childhood behind. All of them are changing, hounded by their parents, hunted by the killer, and haunted by the “monster,” a dead thing that guards the dangerous gateway between youth and manhood. But that’s not all: shadowing the boys everywhere is Mel Herman, the mysterious and brilliant bully whose dark secrets may hold the key to their survival. As the summer burns away, these forces collide, and it will take compassion, brains, and guts for the boys to overcome their demons—and not become monsters themselves.

In this chilling and poignant debut novel, Daniel Kraus deftly explores the choices boys grapple with and the revelations that occur as they become men.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews


"The Monster Variations has shades of A Separate Peace, Lord of the Flies, and To Kill a Mockingbird, but is utterly unique from the very first line."
--JOSHUA FERRIS, Then We Came to the End

"Beneath the terror and the thrills, there is truth in this haunting tale. It pierced my heart straight through."
--LAUREN MYRACLE, ttyl and Bliss

About the Author

DANIEL KRAUS is a writer, editor, and filmmaker. He lives with his wife in Chicago.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1271 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385737343
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (August 11, 2009)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002JCJ6TI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #755,214 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, Great story August 21, 2009
Daniel Kraus conveys this story mostly "seen through the eyes" of 12 year old boys. Delivered are; vigorous imaginations, mysteries, drama, adventure...blood, sweat & tears...guts & glory...guts & gory grit...ins & & downs...all laced with poetic imagery to "fan the fire"...and lets not forget how the various lives of the "adults" around them contributed to the whole saga.

The well written time line weaves a bit back and forth to include the ever widening circle of people and circumstances.

This tale starts in "the now" with a somewhat older James. In this time frame, James runs into Reggie, which begs the story to go back to their 12th year. The majority of the pages are dedicated to that fateful year. Then there is a building and winding back up to the present...and conclusion of the book.

I would love to go into the rich story line, but, really I don't want to diminish the readers' own enjoyment of discovery.
We, the readers, are voyeurs...we witness, we feel, we even squirm here and there...we certainly wonder what is going to happen or be revealed next.

It is a fine and dramatically entertaining study of the human psyche.

Honestly, I could not put the book down...until its very fine "ending".

PS. this book is certainly a great read for adults. And, I would especially give it to any adult who has "lost touch" with their youth.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not scary, but definitely enjoyabe August 16, 2009
Ok, so first of all, this book sells itself the completely wrong way. I understand that there are some potentially interesting angles that can create buzz amongst readers if you take the `boys are mysteriously' dying pieces and blow them out of proportion. Given the back cover, I was truly expecting I Know What You Did Last Summer, or Scream, but what I got was more like Hearts In Atlantis, and even that movie was scarier than this book. For those of you looking for Goosebumps, this is not your book.

However, in my opinion, the text is much better. I wasn't looking forward to a YA book version of a bad horror flick, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this novel isn't anything at all like that. It's a story about growing up, making mistakes, and working through difficult circumstances given the various pressures around you. Kraus's narrative voice is perfect for the three main characters. Each is unique and each has a different home life that causes tension and struggles that arise as a result.

Honestly, I love coming of age novels because they hearken to a simpler time in all of us when we're exploring everything life is beginning to offer as we awaken into our teenage selves--weird hormones, friendships forming and dissolving, and the realization that our parents are normal people with problems of their own. I don't think there are enough good books like this one, and I recommend this to boys, ages 10 - 13.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant April 22, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Whoever wrote the synopsis that appears on the jacket flap of this book should be ashamed of him or herself. By making it appear as if The Monster Variations is a horror thriller, the unknown blurbster has done both the potential reader and the book's brilliant author, Daniel Kraus, a great disservice. The Monster Variations is a visceral tale of twelve-year-old boys on the cusp of manhood. The story is riveting, the imagery remarkable ("his heart scraped itself across the sharp blades of his ribs" ) and the prose luminous.

James Wahl is desperately eager to leave his hometown, his parents, and his childhood behind. Making his getaway to college, James stops at a hole-in-the-wall town for gas and comes face to face with the past he can't outrun. Reggie Fielder was once one of James' best friends and during their twelfth summer they shared adventures and horrors that profoundly changed the young men they would become.

One week into that long ago summer vacation a boy named Greg Johnson is killed in a hit and run. The grown-ups are in an uproar, convinced that a deliberate killer is targeting the town's boys and a curfew is soon declared. This is all particularly troubling for best friends James, Reggie and Willie. Clearly an 8 pm curfew will curtail their summer plans and it won't really protect them. They know this for a fact because Willie was the mad driver's first victim and the hit-and-run that cost him his left arm occurred much earlier in the evening than 8. The boys decide that no curfew is going to mess up their long, glorious summer and when the need arises they won't hesitate to ignore it.

As the weeks go by and the killer is not caught, the boys plan a series of meaningful outings that will test their courage and their friendship.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I really liked Monster Variations. My first reaction was "this reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird". The story goes its own way though, telling the tale of three twelve year old boys and their summer. It reminded me of a time when boys could still have adventures, even of the gruesome sort that are related here. Remember when you could still play outside after dark? When the whole town knew you, and how good it felt after a whole day spent playing baseball in the heat? Those were the days...

In the opening scenes of this story, one of the boys is struck by a hit and run driver and loses his arm. Later, another boy in town is struck and killed and it's this overlaying sense of dread that follows which gives this story its rather constant sense of foreboding and gloom. We get to meet the parents and alot of the townspeople who are all well done characters that seem to have stepped out of a Faulkner novel. I think teens will like this novel because the struggles the boys go through in their friendship and in relating to their parents are timeless. This is an extremely well written book with some great images that will stay with me for a good while. This novel reminded me how hard it is to be twelve - not a teenager, and not a child. It will resonate with many and I will be recommending it often.
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More About the Author

Daniel Kraus is a Chicago-based writer and filmmaker. His novel THE MONSTER VARIATIONS (2009) was selected to New York Public Library's "100 Best Stuff for Teens." Fangoria called his acclaimed, Odyssey Award-winning, Bram Stoker-nominated second novel, ROTTERS (2011), "a new horror classic." SCOWLER (2013) was a Junior Library Guild selection.

Upcoming novels include TROLLHUNTERS (2015), co-written with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, and THE DEATH & LIFE OF ZEBULON FINCH, VOLUMES 1 & 2 (2015, 2016). Kraus has written regularly for such magazines as Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Maxim, and Visit him at

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